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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 39

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.

Merodach-baladan. For 150 years before the overthrow of Nineveh by Cyaxares the Mede, a succession of rulers, mostly viceroys of Assyria, ruled Babylon, from the time of Nabonassar, 747 BC That date is called "the Era of Nabonassar." Pul or Phallukha was then expelled, and a new dynasty set up at Nineveh under Tiglath-pileser. Semiramis, Pul's wife, then retired to Babylon, with Nabonassar, her son, whose advent to the throne of Babylon, after the overthrow of the old line at Nineveh, marked a new era. Babylon takes its name from Balal, to confound (Genesis 11:9). The native etymology is Bab-il, the gate of God; this was the original sense of the appellation given by Nimrod; the other sense was divinely ordered to be attached to it after the confusion of tongues. Erech, Ur, and Ellasar were all more ancient than Babil. The first rise of the Chaldean power was in the region close upon the Persian Gulf.

Thence the nation spread northwards up the course of the rivers, until the seat of government became finally fixed at Babylon, about 1700 BC Conformably to the Scripture, which traces the beginning of the kingdom to Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham, the oldest inscriptions show that the primitive inhabitants were really Cushite - i:e., of the same race as the early inhabitants of South Arabia and of Ethiopia. The seat of government was in Lower Babylonia, Erech (Warka), and Ur (Mugheir): the country was called Shinar, and the people Accadim (Genesis 10:10). The ruins date from 2000 BC The bricks are stamped with the names of the kings. Clay and bitumen are used, but not mortar. Scripture informs us Assyria was populated from Babylon (Genesis 10:11). Tradition and the monuments confirm this. Herodotus (1: 7) says, Ninus, the founder of Nineveh, is son of Belus, the founder of Babylon.

The remains show that Babylonian art was indigenous, and that Assyrian art was derived from Babylon. The cuneiform writing is easily punched on moist clay, and so suits Babylon, which used brick for stones. It passed thence to Assyria, where stone, less suited for it, is the material. The Babylonian early writing is ruder; the Assyrian more perfect. Sometimes the viceroys of Babylon made themselves, for a time, independent of Assyria; thus Merodach-baladan at this time did so, encouraged by the Assyrian disaster in the Jewish campaign (if we are to take the present collocation of Isaiah's chapters, and to place Hezekiah's sickness after Sennacherib's disaster at Jerusalem); he had done so before, and was defeated in the first year of Sennacherib's reign, as is recorded in cuneiform characters in that monarch's palace of Kouyunjik. He is called Mardoc-Empal in the 'Canon of Ptolemy,' which assigns twelve years to his reign (721 BC to 709). Polyhistor gives him a six months' reign immediately before Elibus, or Belibus, murdered him, and ascended the throne (702 BC, according to the Canon).

Thus he twice reigned; and so the inscriptions also state. Sargon states, that in the 12th year of his reign he drove Merodach-baladan out of Babylon, after he had ruled 12 years; and Sennacherib, in his first year, tells us he defeated and expelled him, setting up in his stead Belib. From Sargon's time he and his family were the champions of Babylon's independence-his sons against Esar-haddon; his grandsons against Sardanapalus (Ashur-bain-pal). If the embassy to Hezekiah was in his second reign, then Hezekiah's illness was about the time of Sennacherib's rout at Jerusalem. If it was in his first reign, then the sickness of Hezekiah was about the time of Sargon's attack in "the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign," 713 BC (cf. note, Isaiah 36:1). The line of Babylonian kings is exactly known to us from B.C. 747. Ptolemy the geographer has preserved it to us in a document introduced in an astronomical work.

This document is called the 'Canon of Ptolemy,' and extends in chronology from Nabonassar, in 747 BC to 331 BC-the last Persian king, dethroned by Alexander. It closely accords with Scripture, and is confirmed by the inscriptions beyond cavil (G. Rawlinson). Nabopolassar was the first who established, permanently, his independence; his son, Nebuchadnezzar, raised Babylon to the position which Nineveh once occupied; but from the want of stone near the Lower Euphrates, the buildings of Babylon, formed of sun-dried brick, have not stood the wear of ages as Nineveh has. Merodach was an idol, the same as the god of war and planet Mars (Jeremiah 50:2). Often kings took their names from their gods, as if peculiarly under their tutelage. So Belshazzar from Bel. Baladan means Bel is his lord. The Chronicle of Eusebius contains a fragment of Berosus, stating that Hagisa or Acises, an Assyrian viceroy, usurped the supreme command at Babylon. Merodach (or Berodach) baladan murdered him, and succeeded him to the throne. This refers to Merodach's second reign, a half year in length. Sennacherib conquered and dethroned Merodach-baladan. Esar-haddon, Sennacherib's son, after three intermediate reigns, succeeded; and so we find him carrying Manasseh to Babylon, not Nineveh (2 Chronicles 33:11). Merodach-baladan would naturally court the alliance of Hezekiah, who, like himself, had thrown off the yoke of the Assyrian king, and who would be equally glad of the Babylonian alliance against Assyria; hence, arose the excessive attention which he paid to the usurper.

Sick. An additional reason is given, 2 Chronicles 32:31, "The princes of Babylon sent to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land" - namely, the recession of the shadow on Ahaz' sun-dial. To the Chaldean astronomers such a fact would be especially interesting, the dial having been invented at Babylon. But this was rather the pretext than the motive of the embassy. The true object was to form a league between Babylon, Judea, and Egypt, to check the threatening power of Assyria. The display of Hezekiah's treasures would intimate his power to aid in war.

Verse 2

And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.

Hezekiah was glad. It was not the mere act, but the spirit of it, which provoked God - 2 Chronicles 32:25, "Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; because his heart was lifted up:" also cf. Isa. 39:31 , "in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon ... God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." God 'tries' His people at different times by different ways, bringing out 'all that is in their heart,' to show them its varied corruptions Compare David in a similar case, 1 Chronicles 21:1-8.

Showed them the house of his precious things. So the Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac. The Hebrew (without 'aleph (') ), nªkotow (H5238), from naaka' (H5217), to smite or break, since aromatics are bruised in order to yield their odour. The Hebrew, with 'aleph (') [ nªko't (H5219)], is used for spicery in Genesis 37:25. Hence, it came to mean precious things in general (Kimchi). The Vulgate translates here, 'the house of his (aromatic) spices. But as these follow afterward, the English version avoids tautology.

Sil ld Silver ... gold - partly gotten from the Assyrian camp (Isaiah 33:4), partly from presents (2 Chronicles 32:23; 2 Chronicles 32:27-29). This favours the later date of Hezekiah's sickness, rather than the earlier one in Sargon's time.

Precious ointment - used for anointing kings and priests.

Armour - or else vessels in general: the parallel passage, 2 Chronicles 32:27, "treasuries ... for shields," favours the English version-His arsenal.

Verse 3

Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.

What said these men ... whence name they? - implying that any proposition coming from the idolatrous enemies of God, with whom Israel was forbidden to form alliance, should have been received with anything but gladness. Reliance on Babylon, rather than on God, was a similar sin to the previous reliance on Egypt, (Isaiah 30:1-33 and Isaiah 31:1-9.)

They are come from a far country - implying that he had done nothing more than was proper in showing attention to strangers "from a far country."

Verse 4

Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.

What have they seen? ... All that (is) in mine house - a frank confession of his whole fault: the king submits his conduct to the scrutiny of a subject, because that subject was accredited by God. Contrast Asa (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

Verse 5

Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:

Hear the word of the Lord of hosts - who has all thy goods at His disposal.

Verse 6

Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

The days come - 120 years afterward. This is the first intimation that the Jews would be carried to Babylon-the first designation of their place of punishment. The general prophecy of Moses (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64): the more particular one of Ahijah, in Jeroboam's time (1 Kings 14:15), "beyond the river;" and of Amos 5:27, "captivity beyond Damascus," are now concentrated in this specific one as to "Babylon." The contemporary Micah foretells the same exile, and the return from it, explicitly. So that it is no objection to the genuineness of the latter half of Isaiah's prophecies that Isaiah passes from Assyria to the restoration from Babylon in it (Micah 4:10). It was an exact retribution in kind, that as Babylon had been the instrument of Hezekiah's and Judah's sin, so also it should be the instrument of their punishment.

Verse 7

And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

Thy sons that shall issue from thee - the sons which Hezekiah (as Josephus tells us) wished to have (note, Isaiah 37:3, on "wept sore") will be among the foremost in suffering.

Eunuchs - fulfilled, Daniel 1:2-3; Daniel 1:7.

Verse 8

Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.

For there shall be peace ... in my days. The punishment was not, as in David's case (2 Samuel 24:13-15), sent in his time. How perverse Newman's remark is ('Hebrew Monarchy,' 274), that Hezekiah's reply was 'false resignation, combining selfishness with silliness!' True repentance humbly acquiesces in all God's ways as just and right; just, because they are God's, and meekly finds cause of thanksgiving in any mitigation.

Remarks: When prosperity attends the godly, even they are treated with consideration by the worldly. But the smiles of the world are to be more dreaded than its frowns. The heart is tempted to be "glad" of earthly goods rather than glad in the Lord: even as Hezekiah was tempted by the flattering embassy of Merodach-baladan to display ostentatiously, and to exult in his 'precious things, silver, gold, and spices,' and in "his armour." The quarter the embassy came from, idolatrous Babylon, should have made Hezekiah regard it with a very different feeling from gladness. If he could have foreseen the result, how different would have been his feeling!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 39". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-39.html. 1871-8.
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